German Court Bans Circumcision of Young Boys
Jewish and Muslim groups outraged over ruling
A German court in Cologne ruled that circumcising young boys infringes on their right to be protected from grievous bodily harm on Tuesday, causing outrage from Jewish and Muslim groups who were upset with the ruling, according to multiple reports.
The decision came in the case of a doctor who was prosecuted for circumcising a four-year-old Muslim boy, who just two days later had to be treated post-operative bleeding, according to the Toronto Star.
But the court found that the child’s “fundamental right to bodily integrity” was more important than his parents’ fundamental rights to religious freedom, the New York Times reported.
The hospital doctor who treated the boy for the injury later called the police, but the doctor who performed the circumcision was acquitted because there was no law banning religious circumcision at the time.
The court ruled that the religious freedom “would not be unduly impaired” as the child would later have the option of deciding whether or not to have the circumcision.
“The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised,” the court added.
No age restriction or any specific details were given. The ruling will only apply to the Cologne area, but many fear that some doctors may now decline to do the procedure due to the possibility of charges brought upon them.
Jewish and Muslim groups in Germany were outraged by the decision, the first of its kind in the country, feeling that the ruling violates the right to religious freedom.
Approximately four million Muslims reside in Germany, in addition to over 100,000 Jews. Both religions value circumcisions as part of their respective religious practices.
In the United States, male circumcisions are quite popular as roughly 60 per cent of all newborn boys are circumcised, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 30 per cent of men worldwide are circumcised. In Germany however, only 11 per cent of boys are circumcised, CNN reported.
Circumcisions can lower HIV infection risk by about 60 per cent according to the WHO.
“Circumcision for young boys is a solid component of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for millennia,” said Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who called the ruling an “unprecedented and dramatic intrusion” of the right to religious freedom and an “outrageous and insensitive” act.
“This religious right is respected in every country around the world,” he noted.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in New York released a statement on Wednesday calling circumcision of newborn male infants a "core religious rite of Judaism, practiced by Jews around the world” and asked German parliament to “quickly pass legislation specifically protecting circumcision as a religious practice.”
“The decision by a district court in Cologne, Germany, to deem non-medical circumcision a crime places an intolerable burden on the free exercise of religion by Jews and also by Muslims who practice male circumcision as part of their religious faith,” said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman.
“Germany has dedicated itself to re-building Jewish life, and the consequences of a ban on circumcision would be a devastating blow to the future of the Jewish community. While the ruling by the court in Cologne does not appear to have anti-Semitic intent, its effect is to say ‘Jews are not welcome.’”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told Israel Radio that he also believes Germany's parliament should handle the issue legislatively, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“The parliament in Berlin understands the ramifications of the ruling,” said Rivlin.“Not allowing a person to follow his religion opposes every constitution.”
Ali Demir, chairman of the Islamic Religious Community, called circumcision a harmless and “highly symbolic” procedure and that banning it could have an adverse on Muslims integrating into German society.